Bullet journaling has been on my radar for a while now. This analog method of keeping one’s life organized seemed like just the sort of thing I would love, and it’s not that different from how I’ve been keeping track of the balls in the air lately, but I stillfound the whole process super intimidating.
I thought I might enjoy using a bullet journal, but I dreaded the idea of learning to use a bullet journal.
After procrastinating on this for months (or maybe years) I finally devised a plan that appealed to my inner stationery addict: I ordered a new beautiful notebook and put a start date on my calendar.
That just happened. Like, a week ago. I’m no expert, but the experience of what it’s like to get started with bullet journaling is still fresh in my mind.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far:
1. Jump in. If you wait until you feel like you know how to do this thing before you start, you’ll never start. This is one area where you must learn by doing.
2. It’s okay to start with the good stuff. Many bullet journalers advocate starting with a cheap spiral notebook so they don’t wreck their “nice” journal. I see the wisdom in this approach. But I didn’t follow it.
I love nice journals, and the idea of starting with a 50-cent notebook from Target held zero appeal. I think that’s one of the reasons I procrastinated on this thing for so long. Once I ordered a nice journal, I was eager to put it to good use—even if it meant making a few mistakes along the way.
About that journal: I ordered a Leuchtturm 1917, dotted, in navy. (I wanted anything but black, so I didn’t get my bullet journal confused with other notebooks and journals already in use at my house.)
I always have a nice supply of pens on hand. My favorites for the last few years have been these Staedtler fineliners.
3. Keep it simple. When I began, I only began with three things: I sketched out a one-page monthly log, a two-page future log, and that day’s daily log. (The links below will explain what those things mean.)
You’ll quickly learn what works for you: I didn’t think I would want a monthly to-do list, but I keep thinking of stuff I’d add to it if I’d made one. Next month, I’ll create a monthly to-do list to go with that monthly log.
4. Add things slowly. My first “extra,” in addition to the monthly calendar, future log, and daily log, was a chart to track my workouts. I re-established my relationship with P90X3 last week, and I knew from experience that I had a hard time with the tracking, and tended to lose my logsheet. So I pulled out some pens and a ruler and copied the workout chart straight into my bullet journal.
I added my first “collection” shortly thereafter. I was at the library doing some research when I came across the name of a movie I wanted to watch. Where am I going to write this down? I thought. Or maybe I should just email it to myself. And then I realized: this is exactly what “collections” are for in the bullet journal. And so I made one, not because I was eager to add another layer of complexity to my bullet journal, but because the system is designed to track and hold exactly that kind of information, and it was time to put it to use.
5. What you need will become clear. After a few days of using the journal, I realized I was really missing one thing I loved and relied on from my old cobbled-together day sheet system, and it was the rough blog plan for the week ahead I recopied each day, as it evolved, onto a fresh day sheet.
6. Get inspired. There’s so much practical and inspiring bullet journal info on the web. Find some inspiration—but try to stop yourself before you get overwhelmed. These were my favorite resources for getting started:
• How to bullet journal at the Lazy Genius Collective
• How I use my bullet journal at the Art of Simple
• Two words: bullet journal at Carrie Willard’s blog. (I especially like her habit tracker, similar to the one shown here.)
I looked at a slew of weekly layout ideas on the web, and couldn’t find any layout that did what I wanted it to do … so I made my own, and it works beautifully. I may tweak it as time goes on, and the bullet journal gives me the flexibility to do that.
I’m only one week in, and I still have lots to learn. But my first week of bullet journaling has gone wonderfully well, and the whole process has been so much smoother and less-overwhelming than I thought it would be.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on the bullet journal system in comments. I’d especially like to hear your best tips, tricks, and tutorials for getting the hang of it.